Last month I discussed some of the theories of memory and why we need to be free from the chains of inflammation and stress to have a healthy functioning brain. Now we’ll talk about how we can improve and optimize our memory.
First of all, the brain is so complex that known facts like “there are 800 miles of wires in one half inch of brain tissue” are hard to comprehend. Yet these wires and connections are not sufficient to remember everything and so your brain prioritizes certain memories and downgrades others. Placing importance, especially emotional importance, on a thought is the best way to make sure that a memory becomes long lasting. This is the reason “bad” or “wonderful” memories last much longer than “ordinary” ones.
Even if you can concentrate and “connect” to an item, life events can get in the way of memory. Stress, for instance, can disturb the formation of memories and chronic stress is even more detrimental to memory formation.
STRESS AFFECTS MEMORY– Here’s how it works.
When stress increases, whether from pain, personal problems or lack of sleep, cortisol from the adrenal gland increases. Increased cortisol then lowers the metabolic rate (BMR) and decreases the available energy that the brain needs to form memories. The decreased BMR then leads to increased belly fat, brain fog, pre-diabetes and further brain degeneration, which, in turn, leads to more stress and inflammation.
What To Do: If you are noticing memory challenges, you should take a serious look at making some immediate lifestyle changes to limit cell damage because memory loss is the first sign of brain degeneration. But don’t fret yet—the good news is that the brain is very resistant and can add neurons and connections (neuroplasticity) that increase your memory and other brain functions.
1) Control blood sugar surges: When blood sugar raises so does insulin, which is inflammatory, so limiting carbohydrates (sugar) can decrease inflammation, a major memory drag. Intermittent fasting can also help by teaching your body to burn fat instead of sugar.
2) Sleep: Lack of proper sleep can lead to increased toxins which causes actual brain shrinkage. On a positive note, proper sleep (slow wave and REM) actually helps consolidate long-term memory.
3) Exercise: Exercise produces a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that protects and repairs the memory neurons and acts like a reset switch. That’s one reason you feel at ease and “clearer” after working out. At the same time, endorphins lower your cortisol levels, enhancing memory. In fact, it’s been shown that people who exercise have less overall brain shrinkage over time.
4) Caffeine: A cup of Joe enhances long-term memory by improving memory consolidation. One cup of coffee works well, but not three cups (300mg). The side effects of high amounts of coffee, namely increased cortisol, will then impair memory.
5) Thyroid function: Even though the thyroid has more of a general function to activate the brain, memory problems are a hallmark of low thyroid function. This can be best regulated by diet andtargeted nutritional supplementation.
6) Cortisol From the Adrenal Gland: Cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress, makes your brain lose brain-connections and therefore memory. This can be regulated by diet and supplementation such as fish oil and phosphatidyl serine.
7) B6, Folate and B12: Studies show that decreased levels of these nutrients are related to brain shrinkage in the areas that are responsible for memory. Unfortunately, as you age, B12 levels usually decrease, requiring supplementation.
8) Vitamin D: Researchers have found Vitamin D receptors that increase nerve growth in the memory areas of the brain. Optimal levels of Vitamin D help ensure this growth.
Let us help you improve your memory and your overall brain function by providing you with a treatment program based on blood/hormone tests that provide a clear path to and effective solution. An added benefit is that this approach improves concentration, mood, energy levels, libido, and overall health–all at the same time.
Dr. Don Davis, D.C., DACNB is a BOARD CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTIC NEUROLOGIST in Walnut Creek. He has been serving individuals with memory problems for 30 years. For information about how you can get a free consultation with Dr. Davis, call (925) 279-4324 (HEAL). Visit us at WalnutCreekThyroidInstitute.com